Blues Bytes

What's New

May 2009

an associate Order these featured CDs today:

Buckwheat Zydeco

Jason Ricci

Alex Dixon

Big Joe Shelton

Tas Cru

Omar Kent Dykes

Nick Moss and the Flip Tops

Joe Price

Buckwheat ZydecoI’m the first to admit that my knowledge of Zydeco is limited. It’s not that I’m unaware of the contributions Zydeco artists such as Clifton Chenier have made to our musical history; it’s just that my exposure to the genre is severely limited. So I was pleased to see that Buckwheat Zydeco’s latest release, Lay Your Burden Down, was such a prestigious project to review. It celebrates Buckwheat Dural’s 30th anniversary as an artist, and it’s his first release on the Alligator Record’s label. So let’s hit play and get down to it.

First up is a re-make of the classic Memphis Minnie tune, “When the Levee Breaks,” a story about the 1927 flood in the Mississippi Delta. Sonny Landreth lends his slide guitar to the mix as Buckwheat tells us the story of the flood. “Crying won’t help you…praying won’t do no good…crying won’t help you…praying won’t do no good…when the levee breaks…mama, you just got to move!” Stark and somber in its tone, “When the Levee Breaks” changes mid-way through to a Zydeco celebration of the historic event. My feet are tapping and we’re only one song in.

Next up is a tune written by JJ Grey, “The Wrong Side,” and JJ sings backup to Buckwheat’s powerful voice. “I was born…on the wrong side of the tracks…so I left…but I’m still looking back…everybody…telling tales of sorrow…I forget…but I can’t let go!” Horns

 make their presence on “Let Your Yeah be Yeah,” a tune by Jimmy Cliff, in the form of Trombone Shorty’s trombone, Curtis Watson on trumpet and Steve Berlin on Baritone sax. Buckwheat’s accordion lends itself to the reggae influence and all he’s looking for is a straight answer…”so you’d better let your yeah be yeah…and your no be no!”

“Don’t Leave Me” is the first Buckwheat original tune on the disc. His woman has lied to and the relationship seems to have worked its way south, but Buckwheat still loves this woman. “Please don’t leave me…don’t leave me baby…oh, baby…can we talk about it, baby…so we can be together…and make something happen, honey…be lovers forever and ever…we have to see honey…but we’ve just got to try hard!” This is definitely one relationship that is going to take some serious effort. Trombone Shorty’s solo accentuates the work required and hopefully she’s up to the task, because Buckwheat definitely is.

A Bruce Springsteen tune, “Back in Your Arms,” is up next. “Now I’m standing on this empty road…where nothing moves but the wind…now honey, I just want to be…back in your arms again.” Ever the lover, all Buckwheat wants to do is hold his woman tight again. “Throw Me Something, Mister” is the first classic Zydeco tune on the disk. It’s Mardi Gras time and the world’s a party. Time to catch some beads and celebrate the day, “throw me something, mister!”

The title track, “Lay Your Burden Down,” was written by Warren Haynes of Government Mule, and Warren lends his guitar virtuosity to the tune. “It’s heavy…lay your burden down…brother…can you see the sun in the night? There’s a road up yonder…way beyond the light!” A heavy bass drum gives way to Buckwheat’s accordion on “Time Goes By.” “Was this the road…the way to go…or should I’ve gone another way…its funny…how time goes by!” Life’s journey often presents different forks in the road and its not always clear which was the better path to take.

Buckwheat is offering advice to the object of his affection in “Ninth Place.” “Stay out the way…honey….because the field won’t delay…don’t ruin it babe…and you can let them pull away…cause baby, ninth’s still a place!” She’s not the prettiest or the smartest woman in the mix, but she’s still the one he loves.

Lay Your Burden Down closes with the Captain Beefheart tune, “Too Much Time,” and the instrumental “Finding My Way Back Home.” “Too much time…too much time…I’ve got too much time…I’ve got too much time to be without love!” “Finding My Way Back Home” is a beautiful instrumental featuring Buckwheat’s accordion with subtle guitar work by Michael Melchione. It’s a classic use of the instrument most associated with Zydeco and a wonderfully appropriate song to end this great record on.

I’ve truly enjoyed Lay Your Burden Down and hope to see Buckwheat Zydeco live sometime this festival season. I’ve got a lot to learn about Zydeco and I’m sure catching a live performance by Buckwheat Zydeco would be the perfect place to start. For more information about Buckwheat, head out to his website at It’s a trip worth taking.

--- Kyle Deibler

Jason RicciI’ve had fans of Jason Ricci here in Phoenix bend my ear about him for the last couple of years. I finally got the chance to see Jason & New Blood play at Blues From The Top last June and found his “wall of sound” approach over the edge. But it made sense to me and I appreciated the thought that went into Jason’s set. He and the band definitely follow their own muse.

Fast forward to working with Jason at this year’s IBC finals, which was was definitely a bit more interesting. Jason is nothing if not opinionated and he can be a pain in the a**, but attendees of the IBC finals found him refreshing and justifiably so. Still, it was a surprise to me to realize that all of the liner notes on the new Jason Ricci and New Blood CD, Done with the Devil, were written by Jason himself. I have over 5,000 CDs in my collection and I believe this is the first one I own where the artist has written all of the liner notes. It was refreshing to see that as Jason as grown into his own skin, he and the band are more and more appreciated for the Bluesmen they truly are. I’ll leave the rest of Jason’s commentary for you to read, but I’m sure you’ll find his insight and honesty refreshing. Let’s get on to their latest disc.

Shades of the Mississippi Hill country rear its head on our first cut, “Done with the Devil.” The Devil is a force in many a Crossroads discussion, and here Jason has comes to grip with the Devil’s presence in his life and managed to release himself from it. “Thing knocks at the door…this ain’t no folklore…it’s a dirty force…you cannot divorce…done with the devil”! Whatever the hold may be, Jason has managed to extricate himself from its clutches.

The ballad, “Sweet Loving,” is our next cut. Jason starts out to write a thank you letter to someone at his mother’s request and finds himself bending to other influences in his life that prevent him from writing the note. “It’s the thank you letter that I never wrote…that I told my momma I sent…it’s the cool intentions that I started with…that I compromised and bent….sweet loving with my baby!” The interaction between Jason’s harp and Shawn Starski’s guitar is very intricate and well-done as Jason celebrates the love of his choosing.

The frenetic energy of the band is back on our next tune, “Hollering for Craig Lawler.” Craig Lawler was a harmonica student of Watermelon Slim’s who has passed away that Jason knew and this tune is in celebration of Craig’s life in the Blues. “It’s time to…holler for Craig Lawler…holler for Craig Lawler!”

Slow, melancholy notes emit from Jason’s harp as he plays the introduction to “Broken Toy.” Here Jason reflects on his perceptions of living a lifestyle outside of what society perceives to be the norm. Openly gay and true to his beliefs, Jason is aware of the isolation that he sometimes feels. “Well…I’m an outsider…not a girl…not a boy…I feel like a broken toy!” The next tune, “Ptryptophan Pterodactyl,” is an instrumental that lets Jason and the New Blood let their hair down. A strong bass line from Todd Edmunds forms the backbone for this free-form exploration of musical forms. Part contemporary jazz, part blues with some reggae influences, “Ptryptophan Pterodactyl” shows that every player in the band has some serious chops.

“I Turned into a Martian” follows with its own frantic energy as Shawn Starski’s guitar leads the way. “I turned into a Martian…I can’t even recall my name…sometimes I never want to sleep at night…well, I turned into a Martian!” The tempo slows down as Jason and the band sink their teeth into the Willie Dixon classic, “As Long as I Have You.” “Call me your baby…and I’ll be your man…as long as I have you…northing I won’t do, baby…long as I have you!” Shawn takes over the vocal duties on a tune he wrote, “How it Come to Be.” His fretwork on the Dobro stands out as he tells us about the relationship he’s ending. “Put on my walking shoes…I’m going downtown…baby, I’m leaving you…all day long…I finally see…how it come to be!”

“Life of Denial” is a story about a man who did his prison time and then had trouble integrating back into society. “Back in time…all over again…that life of crime…will never end…that I had it licked…but the clock, it ticked…and the times, it ended again. Jason’s harp provides the intro for the band’s next instrumental, “Afro Blue.” There’s no doubt that Jason is at the forefront of this generation’s harp players and he definitely shows us why in “Afro Blue.”

Jason and New Blood bring out the kitchen sink for a tune written by their drummer, Ed Michaels, who also sings the lead on “Keep the Wolf from My Door.” Shawn Kellerman and his band join the party on this tune as Ed works to keep his life together. “The repo man…he repossessed my stuff…and then they came and took my car…I know one thing…that without my wheels…I won’t be getting far…landlord said I was evicted…30 days to leave…don’t know where I’m a going to…but good luck is what I need…keep the wolf from my door…a little bit longer…and I won’t have to sleep outdoors!”

Done with the Devil closes with the tune “Enlightenment,” another instrumental with a gypsy/carnival feel whose melancholy notes are complimented by the operatic vocals of Brady Mills at the end. A fitting end to what has been an extremely interesting record.

Jason Ricci and New Blood have come a long way together as a band, and it's fitting that Jason notes that the band itself is a stronger entity than any one player in the band, including Jason himself. From its liner notes to its complicated subject matter, Done with the Devil is a disc that exemplifies the maturation of Jason Ricci and New Blood as they continue on their musical exploration of the forces that influence their brand of music. Jason and New Blood are definitely not traditionalists, but they are definitely Bluesmen. You can grab a copy of this disc from Eclecto Records on the band’s website,

--- Kyle Deibler

Alex DixonIt’s about time a disc came across my desk that I can unequivocally say will make my top 10 list this year. Leave it to Willie Dixon’s grandson, Alex Dixon, to come out with the freshest take on the Blues I’ve heard this year. Rising From the Bushes is definitely a keeper and one I’d look for soon if I were you. If you can’t find a copy in your local record store, head to; you’ll be glad you did.

Alex has surrounded himself with great players and vocalists for this project, and leading it off on “Fantasy” is Marcella Detroit, aka Marcy Levy. Lost in a world of her own, Marcy struggles to determine what’s real and what’s “fantasy.” “I need something to free my know it, baby…just one more time…everything will be fine…cause this will be the last time!” Blistering guitar from BB Chung King lights up this first cut and I know I’m in for a treat already. BB takes the vocal lead on our next cut, “Lose Control,” and here we find him mesmerized by a woman he encounters. “I want to dance with you…and baby, a whole lot more!” “I ain’t lying…that red dress sure looks fine…I’m feeling the heat…you’re about to blow my mind…right here tonight…I’m about to lose control!” BB definitely has it bad and you know he’s going to work very hard to get it!

David Dills is up next at the microphone with one of Alex’s grandfather’s originals, “Down in the Bottom.” Enamored with another man’s woman, David has to be on his toes with this one. “Meet me in the bottom…bring me my running shoes…meet me in the bottom…bring me my running shoes…when I jump out the window…I have no time to lose.” More great fretwork from BB Chung King and Alex on the piano keeps the tune moving right along. Throw in some great harp work from Michael Fell and the band did Alex’s grandfather proud.

Our next cut, “Still in Love with You,” features David on the vocals and slows down into one sweet ballad. “Hey baby…I’m lonely with blues…cause I’m still in love with you…it don’t matter what I say or do…I’m still in love with you!” This relationship has been a rocky one but David is pleading his case for one more chance, he’s definitely in love with the object of his affections. It’s great to hear Marcy back with the vocal lead on our next tune, “Paint You a Picture.” This band’s groove is tight and Marcy is in top form. Experience has taught Marcy well and she’s no fool, what’s going on in this relationship is painfully clear. “But…you’re going to miss me…especially when I’m gone…you’re going to pay the price…cause you done me wrong…going to paint you a picture…so you see the pain…when you’re out of my life…don’t speak my name!” Marcy’s done, this guy is definitely out of here!

Another one of Alex’s grandfather’s tunes, “Spoonful,” features David Dills back at the microphone with ferocious fretwork by BB Chung King to intro the song. “Could be a spoonful of coffee…could be a spoonful of tea…but, just need a spoon of your precious love…that’s good enough for me…everybody fight about a spoonful”! “My Suspicious Mind” is the first tune that really brings Alex’s piano into play and BB Chung King is back at the microphone. “You’ll never know my whole name…you’ll never know where I’ve been…won’t negotiate until the end…and I say these things that I do…to make you think about your life too…you might think I’m fooling you…but your suspicious mind is going to get you too!” “My Suspicious Mind” offers a pretty cynical view of the world and sadly, sometimes it’s correct in its vision.

Another tune in the same vein, “These Are the Days,” is an extremely accurate view of the world we know today. “You’ve got people crying…and losing their homes…here and now and the next day, it’s all gone…I was broken now…just like a stone…and all the banks are closing…dry as a bone…and these are the times!”

A heavy bass line from Gerald Johnson lets us know that he’s at the helm for “Find a Way to Live.” Gerald sports a great set of chops and he’s truly in love with the woman he’s just lost. “I have done things…that most men have dreamed of…I have seen things…that folks will never speak of…I’ve got to find a way to live…without you”! We’re never really sure what happened, but Gerald’s definitely in pain over losing the love of his life.

David Dills comes back up to the microphone for the last tune on this amazing album, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.” A tune of great optimism, David lets us know that he’s more than willing to lend a helping hand to the woman who needs his love. “I don’t judge nobody for their ways…you can stop your running…in this world of haze…the sunshine comes up…every day…I’m here to tell you…things are going to be ok!” More amazing harp work from Michael Fell and fretwork from BB Chung King highlight the hope David expresses that everything will indeed, be all right!

Rising From the Bushes is a disc that will return to my CD player all year long. It features outstanding writing from Alex Dixon, great vocal performances all around and one of the tightest bands I’ve heard in quite awhile. It’s quite clear from this record that Alex has a vision for where he wants to go with his grandfather’s blues and we’re better of in this genre of music because of it.

Once in a great while you get to hear a classic disc, and Rising From the Bushes will definitely be in my top ten at the end of the year. It’s got Blues Music Award nominee written all over it.

--- Kyle Deibler

Melody MakersWell, it seems to be my month for reviewing CDs from European duos, although the Melody Makers' Out To Play (Rockhattle Records) has a duo at the core with some guest musicians added to give additional depth. Italian-based duo Emanuele Fizzotti & Luca Roffino (guitars etc & drums, respectively) are the Melody Makers, and they are joined at various times in the album by Marina Schiavinato (backing vocals), Silvio Sansone (harmonica), Maurizio Torchio on bass and Attilio Gili with some vocals on track 15 “Down To New Orleans.” Three of the 15 tracks are covers that show some of the various influences this band has (Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, J.J.Cale), while the other 12 are all written by Emanuele Fizzotti.

The three covers are exceptionally well done, especially J.J.Cale’s “After Midnight” with some neat banjo work by Fizzotti. As far as I can remember, I’ve never heard this track played on banjo before, so a lot of credit to Fizzotti for having the imagination to try it – and it works! The other two cover tracks are a good version of Presley’s “All Shook Up” and Chuck Berry’s all time classic “Johnny Be Goode”. Would you believe “Johnny B Goode” on banjo? It gives it a country blues feel, and strangely it sounds like this is how should always have been done.

So, how about Fizzotti’s writing? Are his tracks a disappointment after the fine cover versions? No, certainly not! This guy has an imaginative style that really gels, and some of it is as good as it gets. Have a listen to the opening track “Dragon’s Boogie”, which has a rockabilly feel to it, and then goes into “Out To Play”, which puts me in mind of some very early Beatles material, strangely.

It’s obvious that these guys are extremely open to a lot of influences. As well as the ones already mentioned, track six, “Nothing Is Easy,” and track eight, “I’m A Tiger,” have shades of Stevie Ray Vaughan, but all of these influences are shaped and adapted to the band and not just direct copies. Having said this, not every track shows its influences; these guys are just as capable of making their own brand, and it shows very well in track nine “Darkness All Around,” a beautiful slow ballad with inspirational guitar work and good, balanced, lyrics.

Fizzotti obviously thinks that the banjo has a place in blues music (and why shouldn’t it?) as it crops up in a few of the tracks on this album and it doesn’t sound out of place in any of them.

There is one track that stands out for me on this album, and that is “Down On The River,” which features some additional vocals from the talented Marina Schiavinato lending a haunting quality to the song. There’s just something special about this track.

All in all, this is a very good CD and it leaves me looking forward to more from these guys.

--- Terry Clear

LR PhoenixA first for me…..a blues album from a band in Finland! The band is L.R. Phoenix & Mr Mo'Hell. OK, so Finland isn’t the first place that springs to mind when you think about the blues, but these guys sound like they know what they’re doing and they know their blues.

The title track, “Wrecked,” is also the opening track on the CD. It has an enormously catchy riff that has your feet tapping, and it went round and round in my head for ages after I stopped listing to the CD.

L.R.Phoenix is originally from near London, England, but he made the move to Finland when he was in his late 20s and met up with Mr. Mo’Hell in North Karelia, way up near the Russian border. The story they tell is a little reminiscent of Robert Johnson’s tale of the crossroads, with Mr. Mo’Hell sitting by a lake playing a drum of reindeer skin stretched over the skull of a moose and being visited by a man with a long beard who arrived across the lake in a boat.

Well, a little publicity story never hurt, did it?

The music these guys make has a lot of flavour of R.L.Burnside (especially the guitar work) and other Mississippi hill country musicians like Junior Kimbrough (plus a bit of Jim Morrison in the vocals). Close your eyes and you could be listening to a couple of guys from Mississippi, instead of an Englishman and a Finn.

Throughout the album the sound of the drums is pushing the guitar and vocals along, sounding at times like the chanting beat of Native Americans. It’s refreshingly different and it’s hard to believe that just two musicians make this sound. The two of them radiate an indecent amount of energy, so much so that they must be totally drained at the end of a session! Track five, “On The Run,” nearly had me bouncing off of my chair!

Actually, by track seven, “Red Haired Girl,” they do slow down to almost ballad speed. But things start to pick up again, just a little, with “My Leaving” and then quite a bit more with “Whole Night Long,” a track that sounds like it could have been recorded by The Doors way back when.

The final track, “Missing You,” is back to Hill Country Blues out of Mississippi by way of Finland, and it’s truly representative of what these guys are about. Their hearts are in the blues and only a geographical mismanagement is to blame for the fact that they aren’t in the Southern states of the USA making their music.

This CD deserves a listen by anyone who is a fan of Mississippi blues, especially of the Hill Country variety. It will open your ears to the fact that a couple of Europeans can play the blues. Oh, and by the way, L.R. Phoenix wrote every track on the CD.

--- Terry Clear

Steve PayneWell, here’s the latest offering from British folk/blues artist Steve Payne, and it by far eclipses anything that he’s done in the past. He’s written a lot of new material, ramped up the production, and invited a lot of guest artists to play on this CD, No Commercial Value (Digitdoc Records).

Incidentally, I was fortunate enough to see Steve Payne live when he played the prestigious Coin Acoustic Blues Festival in Spain, and he’s just as good live as he is on studio produced albums – maybe even better!

So……. the new CD. Eleven tracks, ten of which he wrote himself, all packed with great guitar picking, a little humour, and Steve Payne’s inimitable style of British folk/blues. Whoever chose the running order of the tracks on this CD should be congratulated, because track one, “Pedestrian Jesus,” just gets hold of you and leaves you wanting more, unlike some albums where you have to really stick to it to get through to the nitty gritty. This track is a Steve Payne original and it features some absolutely beautiful violin playing from Stuart Gordon. The violin adds a really haunting atmosphere to the song, and turns it into something special alongside Payne’s guitar and vocals.

Track two, “Not Afraid Anymore,” is a bluesier track than the first one, with Payne playing his distinctive slide guitar over a nicely understated rhythm section on a song about losing the fear of the devil. It leads into “Animal Farm” which starts with a few bars on banjo and then switches to guitar, with the banjo in the background – a song about problems in life around the USA, from the South, where men still wear the sheets, across to Hollywood.

Track four is a Dylanesque, folky track, “Little Misunderstood” – a girl who is about to be left on her own when her man departs without regrets – just Payne with his vocals and guitar picking. Shades of Woody Guthrie.

Tracks five and six are more folksie numbers, but track six, “Detroit,” starts as a slow blues ballad about the town being on fire, then picks up tempo at about the halfway point. The tempo curiously alternates from there to the end, but somehow it works.

It’s very difficult, and probably unfair, too, to try and pigeonhole this artist – he has so many different styles and influences to put him as a blues artist, or a folk artist, or a country artist, is impossible. He’s all of those, and more, rolled into one.

Suffice it to say, for this review, that when he writes and sings the blues he does it well enough that this CD is worth adding to any collection.

--- Terry Clear

Richard Ray FarrellCamino de Sanlucar (Blue Beet Records) is another great album from Philadelphia based Richard Ray Farrell, this time with “The Spanish Band.” Richard lived in Spain for quite a few years and made some good friends amongst the excellent musicians there, so it’s fitting that he should make this CD with some of his friends and with special guest Raimundo Amador. For those that don’t already know, Raimundo Amador is a full blooded gypsy from Seville, Spain who learned flamenco guitar from his father and started playing on the street at the age of 12. He had B.B.King as a guest star on two CDs!

The Spanish band comprise of Pepe Bao on the bass, Alvaro Gandul on keyboards, and the highly respected drummer Quique Porras – three excellent musicians who, together with Farrell and Amador, play some good blues. Spaniards love and understand the blues, probably because of the strong parallels with their own music, the flamenco.

The album opens with a Farrell written song, “Crazy Over You,” one of four Farrell originals on the CD. This is a nice up-tempo boogie/shuffle type track – well-written and catchy, and a good opening number.
A Magic Sam track (Sam Maghett) comes next – “Look Watcha Done” – slowing things down a little and leading into a very good version of “Never Make Your Move Too Soon,” a song that B.B.King did so well on a few different albums (to very good effect with The Who’s Roger Daltrey on the B.B.King & Friends CD).

Raimundo Amador makes his first appearance on guitar on “Jump Back Baby,” a track written by Richard Ray Farrell that he first aired on the 2000 CD Black Limousine when he was playing with ex-Frank Zappa drummer, the late Jimmy Carl Black. The guitar work here from Amador is excellent, as should be expected, and it pushes the rest of the band along at quite a pace as Farrell sings about a woman who treats him “worse than doing time.”

The instrumental “Shuckin’“ is the next track up, another Farrell original which shows his skill at putting a track together that doesn’t just rely on vocals to get it through. There are some very good covers following this, “As The Years Go Passing By” (again with Raimundo Amador), Jimmy Reed’s “Down In Virginia,” performed with a lot of respect for the original with Richard Ray playing harmonica, “Everybody’s Gotta Change” (Sleepy John Estes) ,modernized without losing the flavour of the original, then Tampa Red’s “Cryin’ Won’t Help You” and Junior Parker’s “Pretty Baby,” before another B.B.King favourite, “The Thrill Is Gone,” written, of course, by Rick Darnell & Roy Hawkins. This is the third track that features the guitar playing magic of Raimundo Amador and, coupled with Farrell’s vocals and the Spanish Band’s rhythm section and tinkling keyboards, it easily gets my vote as the best track on an excellent album.

Having said that, “The Thrill Is Gone” is the best track on the album, but the last track on the CD, Farrell’s instrumental “Camino De Sanlucar” is the one that sounds as though the band are having the most fun – it’s a blast from start to finish.

Get this CD and see what a mix of one American and four Spaniards can produce – you won’t be disappointed!

--- Terry Clear

Big Joe SheltonBlack Prairie Blues (45 Records) is the debut album from a man, Big Joe Shelton, that I’m sure we’ll hear more of in the future. Shelton is a native of Mississippi, having grown up in the North East of the state in the Black Prairie region, and enjoying the friendship of people like Big Joe Williams. He moved to Chicago on the 1970s, following many well known Mississippi bluesmen on that journey.

There is one important difference though……Shelton is a white guy! He has immersed himself in the blues, however, and has been helped by his friendship with many other musicians. Anyway, colour doesn’t matter as long as the music is good, and judging by this album, a white man CAN sing the blues! Incidentally, he made the journey back down to Mississippi to record his album, to get the sound authentic.

I liked this CD from the first few bars of the first track, and it just grew on me the more I listened to it – the influences come from Big Joe Williams (obviously), Bukka White, Willie King, Carey Bell and others.
Shelton has played at the Freedom Creek Blues Festival, The King Biscuit Blues Festival and others, he has also toured Europe – he has played with quite a few of the people that influenced him, and he has really earned his place in the music business.

The album opens with “”Ribs & Cat Whiskey,” heavy on the harp, Big Joe’s gravelly voice pumping out the (almost) jump-blues lyrics – what a good start and bound to make you want more. Into a good driving blues, “In Mississippi,” with an insistent rhythm section pushing the guitar and vocals along at a good pace – a foot tapper!

A boogie beat for track three, ”Chitlin’ Lovin’ Man,” which includes a recipe for cooking chitlins in the lyrics – wonderful inventive stuff. “Mississippi Night” slows things way down, telling you about the honeysuckle flowering on a warm night. Next is “Hope We Live To See The Day,” which opens with some really well played gutsy slide guitar, a little reminiscent of early Ry Cooder, and Shelton then ups the beat to tell a story about a man in the White House lying through his teeth, becoming an anti-war song in the way.

If you want to talk about value for money, this album has 15 good blues tracks on it, and that’s two or three more than the average CD. There’s slow, medium and quick tracks, and all of it is good. If you want good blues, have a listen to this album – put on “Catfish Alley” or the title track, “Black Prairie Blues.”

I’m already looking forward to the guy’s next release!

--- Terry Clear

Tas CruTas Cru is a man from Quebec, Canada whose name means raw potato in his native Quebecois language. He spent the early part of his career playing around Quebec, but he is now based in Albany, New York. His first album, Biscuit, came out in 2006, and two of the tracks from it were featured on Dan Ackroyd’s House Of Blues Radio Hour.

Gravitas (Blind Racoon) is his follow-up album and it takes the flavour of the first one and moves forward with it. Keeping the style and building on it (there’s another album due soon!). The album opens with “That’s Gravy” (adding to Biscuit on the first album, maybe). It’s a good up-tempo blues boogie with some nicely understated keyboards from Chip Lamson playing alongside the guitar and vocals of Tas Cru.

These two are supported by the “Happy Boys,” made up of Jeremy Walz on guitar, Josh Bloomfield playing drums, and Chris Wroblewski providing the bass. In addition, the last track on the album, “Too Much Information,” has guest musician Kenrick Beckstead playing tuba!

“Twelve Step Woman” is track two, slowing down a little from the opening track. It’s another well written track, written as are all of the tracks on the album by Tas Cru who adds some well played harmonica to the mix.

The CD alternates between slow, medium and up-tempo, with a mix that covers all the bases. This really is an album with something for everyone, although the lyrics get a little close to being very raunchy at times.

The moody “Crazy-Mean Woman” (track seven) is my absolute favourite on the CD, no doubt about it. It’s slow, with an insistent bass line, some excellent guitar, a dash of harmonica and good vocals.

This is a band that is different enough to get some recognition

--- Terry Clear

Tas Cru is a Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist from Quebec, Canada and he’s been impressing audiences all over the U.S. and Canada with his highly original songwriting, his rough and ragged vocals, and his slide guitar work. His third release, on his own Crustee Tees Records, is called Grizzle n’ Bone, and proves that he is a force to be reckoned with on the blues circuit, as is his band, the Slow Happy Boys (Jeremy Walz – guitars, Chris Wroblewski – bass, Andy Hearn –drums).

Cru (whose name translate to “raw potato” in Quebecois) wrote 12 of the 13 tracks on the disc and they’re a varied lot, ranging from the title cut, a rocking little number featuring Cru’s slide work and sparkling keyboard work from Chip Lamson, to the bluesy “One Eyed Jack,” to the a capella gospel cut, “Come To Testify,” to “The Prophet of Lynchburg,” which has a hint of bluegrass mixed in.

Other highlights include “Tulsa Tornado,” about a force of nature (but not the type you might think), “Woman Won’t You Love Me,” which features some more of that tasty slide guitar, and “Money Talks,” a sinewy hard rocker. “Let’s Just Pretend” is a pensive acoustic number, which is followed by “Brand New Shoes,” which will bring to mind (along with “Tulsa Tornado”) the Oklahoma roots rocker J. J. Cale. “Make My Woman Cry” features Cru’s raw vocals along with his Resonator slide guitar.

The closing track is the lone cover on the disc, Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher.” Cru transforms it from its frantic R&B/soul origin into a breathtakingly slow country blues with a gospel vocal backdrop (courtesy of the Stacked Deck Singers – Jenny Macri, Meaghan Manor, and Montana Rodriguez). It’s safe to say that this is an arrangement of this song that you’ve never heard before and it deserves to be heard.

Actually, the entire disc is of the same quality. Grizzle n’ Bone deserves to be heard by fans of blues and roots music. Tas Cru writes great songs, has a great, lived-in vocal style, and his slide guitar can peel the paint off a wall. Give this one a listen.

--- Graham Clarke

Delta FlyersAt the centre of The Delta Flyers are an acoustic duo, based in Houston, Texas, who play a mix of country blues from Mississippi and all the different styles between Clarksdale and New Orleans. So what you get from On The Levee Road (Blind Racoon) is Hill Country blues mixed with some light Cajun flavour, with a good foot tapping beat to it – some of it is a little reminiscent of the jug band type of music, especially track one, “Delta Flyer Blues” – the sort of music you could dance to at a party. It’s hard to sit still with this one playing.

Track two, “Three Legged Dog,” is a heavier track, a shuffle with a great driving beat, and some catchy lyrics – my feet are getting tired now, they’ve been tapping so much! This track features Jack Saunders on slide resonator, and it is blues at it’s best.

On The Levee Road,” track three, is a real mix of styles – there’s a little Bob Dylan, mixed with some Creedence Clearwater Revival and all sorts of other sauces – harmonica is the over-riding instrument and it carries the song along perfectly.

Throughout this album there is some good early-sounding harmonica wending its way throughout the other instruments and the vocals. It’s very nicely done and leaves a lasting impression of a good band having fun making music.

Track nine, “Aidie Jean,” is an absolute gem and my favourite track on the album. It’s good old style blues with a nice '50s flavour to it – great slide guitar mixed with harmonica. I get the impression that these guys are going to around for a long time.

--- Terry Clear

Shar BabyLet me say right at the start that Shar-Baby's self-produced disc, My Life, contains some of the best blues I’ve heard this year, in fact some of the best blues that I’ve heard for a long time – the lady is the real deal, and they don’t make blues albums like this anymore.

OK, so that’s the clichés out of the way…….

Shar-Baby, originally from Indiana and now living in Alabama, is what the blues is all about. She writes songs about her life, starting around the age of ten, just the way blues singers have always done.
There’s no pretentiousness here, just pure down-home great blues from a lady and her guitar.

The album starts with “Poolroom Blues” a song Shar-Baby wrote about her early years in Indian where she lived opposite Hoover’s Poolroom and would sit on a coal bin watching the comings and goings. The lyrics are so vivid that you can close your eyes and see it. It took me a long time to get past this track, it’s just so compelling.

“Master Dees” follows up, a chilling tale of slavery, so full of atmosphere that it makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck – slow, moody, compulsive listening. Anyone who likes the blues will absolutely love this – it’s John Lee Hooker in drag!!!!

Track three, “Don’t Want You Hanging Around,” ups the tempo a notch and brings in a little understated harmonica, Little Walter style (there’s a connection here, Shar-Baby’s aunt was Little Walter’s girlfriend at one time). This is a plea from a woman who doesn’t want her man hanging around where he might get into temptation.

“Old Block House” tells the story of Shar-Baby’s early life in the projects in South Bend, Indiana – this is straight from the heart, telling of a hard childhood. The album is called My Life and that’s just what it is – a diary of Shar-Baby’s life, good and bad.

I really don’t want to say any more about this album – I want people to get a copy of it and play it to death. What I will say is that it’s compelling listening, and some of the most authentic blues that has been recorded in this decade. Get a copy via

--- Terry Clear

Omar Kent DykesOne of the biggest records of 2007 was On the Jimmy Reed Highway, a fond tribute to a legendary musician done by Omar Kent Dykes in collaboration with guitarist Jimmie Vaughan. Dykes’ latest release for Ruf Records, Big Town Playboy, is a sequel of sorts, continuing in a similar vein, with many of the same guest musicians in tow (Vaughan, James Cotton, Lou Ann Barton, Gary Clark, Jr. Derek O’Brien, and the dazzling rhythm team of Wes Starr on drums and Ronnie James on bass), along with harp master Lazy Lester.

Instead of focusing on one blues legend this time around, Big Town Playboy covers a much broader range of artists, though most of them worked in styles similar to Reed’s. Added to the mix are songs by Smokey Smothers (“I Can’t Judge Nobody”), Jimmy McCracklin (“Think,” a soulful collaboration with Barton), John Lee Hooker (“No More Doggin’”), a trio of Excello classics, two featuring Lazy Lester on harp (“Hello Mary Lee,” “Dream Girl,” and “King Bee”), Ivory Joe Hunter (“Since I Met You Baby”), and Sonny Boy Williamson II (via G. L. Crockett’s “Man Down There”).

Reed, along with his longtime cohort, Eddie Taylor, still get their props with a quartet of songs, two by Taylor (the title track and “Up Side Your Head”) and two by Reed (“Mary Mary” and the Dykes/Barton duet, “Close Together”). If you heard the previous disc, you’re already aware that Dykes and Vaughan cut their teeth on Jimmy Reed, so you know these representations are first-rate.

That’s the great thing about Big Town Playboy (and its predecessor) ... all of the artists involved grew up with the music. They loved it, they revered it, and they went on to not only play it, but to expand on it and reach an even bigger audience than the original artists. In a way, the musicians on this disc have been paying tribute to these legends for years with their own recordings and performances. This disc is just the icing on the cake.

--- Graham Clarke

Nick MossAbout two weeks before Nick Moss & the Flip Tops recorded their latest disc, their van and all their equipment was stolen in Montreal. Judging from the sound of things, having to use borrowed equipment to record wasn’t a setback at all. Clocking in at nearly 80 minutes, Live At Chan’s – Combo Platter No. 2 (Blue Bella Records) is as robust a set of Chicago blues as you’ve heard in a long time.

Moss certainly has the pedigree for Chicago blues, having played bass in the mid '80s for Buddy Scott, then Jimmy Dawkins, followed by the Legendary Blues Band, where he eventually graduated to guitar. After a three-year stint with Jimmy Rogers, Moss went solo and has released several albums of his own, including a 2006 live recording at Chan’s, a Woonsocket, R.I. Chinese restaurant.

Moss and the Flip Tops tear into rousing originals like the opening instrumental, “Spare Ribs & Chopsticks,” “Fill ‘er Up,” “Try To Treat You Right,” and “I Got All Kinds of Blues.” Flip Top Gerry Hundt pulls out the mandolin for the lively “Whiskey Makes Me Mean, while Moss plays harmonica. There’s also a great version of Curtis Jones’ “Lonesome Bedroom Blues.”

On the final four cuts of the disc, the band is joined by special guest Lurrie Bell, and an already fine album takes off into the stratosphere. Moss and Bell battle it out on four songs, the best of all being their magnificent thirteen-minute take on Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years,” a blues guitarist’s dream come true.

The Flip Tops (Gerry Hundt – mandolin, bass, harmonica, vocals; Willie Oshawny – piano and organ, Bob Carter – drums, and Moss’ wife Kate on bass) are nearly flawless in support of Moss and Bell, whose interplay is wonderful. Though the set is nearly 80 minutes, there’s never a dull moment.

Chicago blues doesn’t get much better than this set. This is another winning set from one of the best blues bands working today.

--- Graham Clarke

Joe PriceJoe Price started playing guitar as a nine year old in Waterloo, Iowa. Focusing on folk and country blues, he was eventually steered into electric urban blues after a chance meeting with Earl Hooker. He settled in Iowa City, often a stopping place for blues artists touring between Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City, playing first with the Rocket 88s and then with the legendary trio Mother Blues (with Patrick Hazell and Bo Ramsey). He retreated to Lansing, Iowa, where he met his future wife, Vicki Ewing, and the two of them began opening for artists like Honeyboy Edwards, Al Green, Louisiana Red, Iris DeMent, John Lee Hooker, and Homesick James). In 2002, Price was inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame and the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Over time, Price has developed a unique blend of traditional country blues that throws in rafter-shaking electric grooves as well as some traces of jazz mixed in. He has issued many recordings since the '80s, many of them homemade, but hopefully his latest effort, Rain or Shine (on his own label, Blues Acres Productions) will help him get the attention he merits. The disc features ten original songs, five of which are instrumentals, mostly featuring Price solo on vocals and guitar. His wife, Vicki, plays guitar on three tracks and sings on “Steel Guitar.”

Price’s plaintive vocals are fine, but the real star of the disc is his guitar. His slide work swoops in and out and back and forth with reckless abandon. It sounds as if fire is coming from the strings at times. Price’s songs are also impressive, highly original, but still with an eye toward traditional country blues. The opening cut, “Hornet’s Nest,” is a highlight, as is the mournful “Too Little Too Late,” and the swinging “Beer Tent Boogie Woogie.”

The instrumental tracks are all keepers. “Joe’s Guitar Stomp” is a rocker, the lovely “Nellie Bell” features Price’s National Steel, as does the Charlie Christian-influenced “LuLu.” The disc closes with the lively “Rock Slide,” featuring the Prices with their son, Keni, on drums and Al Naylor on trumpet.

Raw and original, Rain or Shine will please fans of slide guitar from all genres.

--- Graham Clarke

Mia VermillionOver the past few years, there seems to be more and more artists, particularly women, tackling classic jazz and blues styles. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, because that was a great era of music that’s too often ignored today. It’s refreshing to see that there is still some interest in the genre. Singer Mia Vermillion, from Washington State, stands as one of the most talented, with her silky sensuous vocals. Her new disc, Alone Together With the Blues (Hip Chick Music), finds Vermillion teaming up with slide guitar legend Orville Johnson on a nine-song set of classic jazz and blues standards, plus two originals by Vermillion that stand up well with the standards.

The disc has a relaxed and sophisticated feel, and Vermillion’s beautiful vocals are perfectly complimented by Johnson’s exquisite work on guitar, dobro, and mandolin. The cover tunes include Lil Green’s “In The Dark,” Leroy Carr’s “In The Evening,” a pair of Big Bill Broonzy tunes (“When I’ve Been Drinking” and “I’m Going To Copyright Your Kisses”), Cecil Gant’s “I Wonder,” Mary Lou Williams’ “Walkin’,” and Bing Crosby’s “Two Cigarettes In The Dark.” Vermillion’s interpretations of these standards give the songs new life and Johnson’s shimmering slide guitar work is magnificent. Vermillion’s two original songs are the gently swinging “Little Bit of Love” and the moody “Love’s Lost and Found.”

The superb backing band includes Chuck Deardourf (bass), Ben Smith (drums), Mark Ivester (drums, percussion), Garey Shelton (bass), Cary Black (bass), and Hans Teuber (clarinet). Vermillion produced the disc, with assistance from Tom Kellock on a couple of tracks. Alone Together With the Blues is a splendid set of early jazz and blues by one of the best vocalists I’ve heard in a while.

--- Graham Clarke



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